Recent reports that a new virulent strain of avian influenza (HPAI) has been found in wild birds in Georgia and more than 29 other states have raised concerns that feeding backyard birds might play a role in the spread of this deadly disease in the Peach State.
To date, the only species affected by the disease in Georgia have been lesser scaup, gadwall, and bald eagle. However, avian flu has been detected in at least 100 species of wild birds and other animals.
Avian influenza also infects chickens, wild and domestic waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans), quail, pheasants, and other domestic birds,
The disease is spread in the droppings and nasal secretions of infected birds. It has also been reported healthy birds can also catch the disease when they walk across surfaces contaminated by infected birds.
While it is possible for wild birds to contract the disease form domestic poultry, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found that, in every case they have investigated this year, domestic flocks were infected by wild birds.
Fortunately, as of March 30, no commercial or backyard flocks of poultry have been infected in Georgia. However, such is not the case in 23 other states. Most of these outbreaks have occurred in the Midwest and East. This has resulted in the slaughter of 27 million chickens.
If you enjoy feeding birds in your yard, you are probably wondering if you should cease feeding bird in your backyard until the disease subsided. So far, the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Section has not recommended that people stop birds in their yards.
However, the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Section urges the public to report dead or sick eagles to their office in Forsyth (478-994-1438). (Three bald eagles were found killed by the disease along the Georgia Coast.)
In comparison, the USDA suggests that homeowners can continue feeding birds unless they keep domestic birds. On the other hand, extension specialists at Cornell University recommend that the public cease feeding “until the threat of the disease has passed.”
I will let you know if the outbreak becomes more serious in Georgia and if Georgia officials issue any recommendations concerning feeding wild birds. Those bloggers that live in other states should check with their state wildlife agencies to see if they recommend that feeding birds be discontinued in their states.